AUGUSTA — An advocacy group for Maine school boards and superintendents took issue today with Gov. Paul LePage’s characterization of a Harvard University study that gave the state low marks for student test score improvement, saying the governor was only telling part of the story.

LePage said in a statement Wednesday that the study should be a wake-up call that more must be done to improve public schools. He called on state education officials, school administrators and teacher unions to implement new educational practices focused on student learning.

The governor was reacting to a report by Harvard’s Program on Education Policy and Governance that examined international and U.S. state trends in student achievement growth for fourth- and eighth-grade test score gains in math, reading and science.

The report said Maine had the second-slowest rate of improvement between 1992 and 2011 among the 41 states included in the study, ahead of only Iowa.

Today, the Maine School Management Association said the governor was not telling the full story.

The nonprofit group says Maine ranks in the top tier in the country on the National Assessment of Educational Progress, a standardized test the Harvard study used as a foundation for the report.

The association pointed out that Maine and Iowa were among the highest performing states in 1992, but growth in student performance is easier for those performing originally at a lower level.

The group also noted that Maine eighth graders scored higher than most of the nation on the NAEP science test in 2011, and eighth graders also put Maine among the top 10 states in reading scores in 2011. The eighth graders tied for sixth place nationally in writing scores in 2007, the most recent test data available.

The association said LePage “is using the report to attack the state’s teachers, principals, superintendents and school board members as part of what he describes as ‘Maine’s failing education system.’ “

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